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What Is Social Media Analytics

What is Social Media Analytics, you ask? It’s the next generation of social media platforms. Social networks now have tools that allow you, me and anyone else to pull campaign performance data to specifically track conversions, engagement and traffic by social media channel.

The purpose of this blog post is to give you a better understanding of what social media analytics is, why you need it and the different components which are included within it.

What is social media analytics?

Social media analytics is the collection and analysis of data points that help you measure the performance of your social media accounts.

These are the metrics that will help you assess your social media marketing strategy on both macro and micro levels. Besides helping you see how social media is contributing to your larger business goals, they can also help you gauge customer sentiment, spot trends, and avoid PR crises before they happen.

To track social media analytics, you’ll look at likes, comments, shares and saves, but you might also monitor mentions and discussion of your brand or consumer insights by practising social listening.

Social media analytics tools help you do all this math, while also creating performance reports to share with your team, stakeholders, and boss — to figure out where you’re succeeding and where you’re struggling.

How to track social media analytics

It may seem like a daunting task, but tracking your social media analytics isn’t difficult. It just requires a little bit of planning and a lot of consistency. You’ve got this!

We’ve even made a template for you to plug your social media analytics report into at the end of this post.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

It’s pretty much impossible to measure your success if you don’t actually know what success looks like. So great social media tracking begins with setting a goal for your brand.

To be clear: a social media goal is not the same thing as a social media strategy (although both are important).

A social media goal is a statement about something specific you want to achieve with your marketing activity. Your goal can be applied to something short-term and small (for instance, a single ad buy) or can be bigger picture (like a goal for your overall social media campaign).

Either way, we recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. framework for your social media goals to set yourself up for maximum success.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

  • Specific: Your goal should be as precise as possible. What exactly do you want to achieve? “Improve our Instagram account” is too vague. “Build Instagram engagement by 500%” is far clearer.
  • Measurable: Set some quantifiable indicators (a.k.a. hard numbers) to make success clear. For instance, “increase our TikTok followers by 1,000 this month.” Without having a goal that’s measurable, you’ll never know if you’ve achieved it.
  • Attainable: Listen, it’s great to want to reach for the stars, but setting the bar a little lower is going to make it much more likely that you’ll actually achieve it. Think baby steps here. If your goal is to push a million views to your website this week, but you just launched it yesterday, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
  • Relevant: How does this goal fit into your overall plan? Go ahead and strive to get Rhianna to follow you back on Twitter, but make sure it’s clear why pursuing that goal is going to benefit your big-picture brand strategy.
  • Time-bound: Deadlines are key. When do you want to achieve your goal? If you can’t come up with a timeline, that might be an indicator that your goal just isn’t specific or attainable enough.

Here are some suggestions for social media goals, if you need a place to start. Once you’ve got one in place, it’s time to figure out just how to best measure your progress towards that goal. Which leads us to…

Decide which metrics matter to you most

There are a lot of different numbers flying around the social-media-verse. Likes! Followers! Views! Shares! Duets!(?) How do you know which of these social media metrics are important? Well… it’s really up to you.

social media metrics audience reach
Instagram Analytics

Remember that goal you set, just moments ago in step number one? (We really hope you remember, it just happened.)

That’s going to determine which metrics actually matter because you want to keep an eye on the data that will help you measure your progress towards your goal.

Social media metrics fall into one of four categories:

  • Awareness: current and potential audience.
  • Engagement: how audiences are interacting with your content.
  • Conversion: effectiveness of your social engagement.
  • Consumer: how active customers think and feel about your brand.

If your goal is to grow your Instagram following, then metrics that track engagement (like follows and likes) are probably the most important ones to keep an eye on. If your goal is sales, conversion-related metrics are more relevant (that might include views or click-through rates).

report of performance growth including brand awareness audience growth and engagement rate
A social media analytics report in Hootsuite Analytics

Not all metrics are equally important for every goal, so save yourself a headache by tracking the numbers that actually matter.

Check in regularly

Importantly, social media analytics shouldn’t just be used for “before and after” snapshots of your goal’s impact. Check in regularly on your analytics over the course of a campaign or project with social media reports to ensure you’re on the right track.

“What can’t be measured, can’t be managed,” as the old leadership adage goes. If you just set your strategy and let it play out without any observation, you’re missing opportunities to adjust and adapt along the way.

All the major social media accounts have their own in-platform analytics tools. In fact, here’s a list of step-by-step guides to using the Insights tools for pretty much every social platform you can dream of:

Why is social media analytics important?

IBM points out that with the prevalence of social media: “News of a great product can spread like wildfire. And news about a bad product — or a bad experience with a customer service rep — can spread just as quickly. Consumers are now holding organizations to account for their brand promises and sharing their experiences with friends, co-workers and the public at large.”

Social media analytics helps companies address these experiences and use them to:

  • Spot trends related to offerings and brands
  • Understand conversations — what is being said and how it is being received
  • Derive customer sentiment towards products and services
  • Gauge response to social media and other communications
  • Identify high-value features for a product or service
  • Uncover what competitors are saying and its effectiveness
  • Map how third-party partners and channels may affect performance

These insights can be used to not only make tactical adjustments, like addressing an angry tweet, they can help drive strategic decisions. In fact, IBM finds social media analytics is now “being brought into the core discussions about how businesses develop their strategies.”

These strategies affect a range of business activity:

  • Product development – Analyzing an aggregate of Facebook posts, tweets and Amazon product reviews can deliver a clearer picture of customer pain points, shifting needs and desired features. Trends can be identified and tracked to shape the management of existing product lines as well as guide new product development.
  • Customer experience – An IBM study discovered “organizations are evolving from product-led to experience-led businesses.” Behavioral analysis can be applied across social channels to capitalize on micro-moments to delight customers and increase loyalty and lifetime value.
    Branding – Social media may be the world’s largest focus group. Natural language processing and sentiment analysis can continually monitor positive or negative expectations to maintain brand health, refine positioning and develop new brand attributes.
  • Competitive Analysis – Understanding what competitors are doing and how customers are responding is always critical. For example, a competitor may indicate that they are foregoing a niche market, creating an opportunity. Or a spike in positive mentions for a new product can alert organizations to market disruptors.
  • Operational efficiency – Deep analysis of social media can help organizations improve how they gauge demand. Retailers and others can use that information to manage inventory and suppliers, reduce costs and optimize resources.

Key capabilities of effective social media analytics

The first step for effective social media analytics is developing a goal. Goals can range from increasing revenue to pinpointing service issues. From there, topics or keywords can be selected and parameters such as date range can be set. Sources also need to be specified — responses to YouTube videos, Facebook conversations, Twitter arguments, Amazon product reviews, comments from news sites. It is important to select sources pertinent to a given product, service or brand.

Typically, a data set will be established to support the goals, topics, parameters and sources. Data is retrieved, analyzed and reported through visualizations that make it easier to understand and manipulate.

These steps are typical of a general social media analytics approach that can be made more effective by capabilities found in social media analytics platforms.

  • Natural language processing and machine learning technologies identify entities and relationships in unstructured data — information not pre-formatted to work with data analytics. Virtually all social media content is unstructured. These technologies are critical to deriving meaningful insights.
  • Segmentation is a fundamental need in social media analytics. It categorizes social media participants by geography, age, gender, marital status, parental status and other demographics. It can help identify influencers in those categories. Messages, initiatives and responses can be better tuned and targeted by understanding who is interacting on key topics.
  • Behavior analysis is used to understand the concerns of social media participants by assigning behavioral types such as user, recommender, prospective user and detractor. Understanding these roles helps develop targeted messages and responses to meet, change or deflect their perceptions.
  • Sentiment analysis measures the tone and intent of social media comments. It typically involves natural language processing technologies to help understand entities and relationships to reveal positive, negative, neutral or ambivalent attributes.
  • Share of voice analyzes prevalence and intensity in conversations regarding brand, products, services, reputation and more. It helps determine key issues and important topics. It also helps classify discussions as positive, negative, neutral or ambivalent.
  • Clustering analysis can uncover hidden conversations and unexpected insights. It makes associations between keywords or phrases that appear together frequently and derives new topics, issues and opportunities. The people that make baking soda, for example, discovered new uses and opportunities using clustering analysis.
  • Dashboards and visualization charts, graphs, tables and other presentation tools summarize and share social media analytics findings — a critical capability for communicating and acting on what has been learned. They also enable users to grasp meaning and insights more quickly and look deeper into specific findings without advanced technical skills.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what does social media analytics do? It provides you with a bunch of numbers and charts that can be deciphered for insights. Social media analytics determine the effectiveness of your social media marketing — not just displaying stats like followers and mentions.

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